The lady stripped bare | Tracey Spicer | TEDxSouthBankWomen


Translator: Ellen Maloney
Reviewer: Helena Bedalli Hello, my name is Tracey Spicer
and I am a vain fool. Let me take you through my schedule
before appearing here today. Six am: Get up, look in mirror,
see old lady looking back, wonder, “How the hell
did she get in there?” Put on running gear designed
to suck in wobbly bits. Run, even though no-one
is chasing me with an axe, but run to maintain
professionally acceptable size ten. Get home, do 20 wide leg squats
in futile bid to get inner-thigh gap. (Laughter) Add 20 tricep dips to get rid
of nasty bingo flaps. Go to bathroom, scour skin with exfoliate
to get rid of those dreadful dead cells. Hop in shower, lather hair
with sodium lauryl sulphate, rinse out. Dollop on conditioner
containing placental extract, wait until it sinks in, and wait,
and wait, and wait. (Whistles) Rinse out. Soap up, wash off,
get out of shower, dry body, lather body in petroleum byproduct,
otherwise known as “body moisturizer,” and wait till that sinks in. And wait, and wait, and wait. Cleanse face, add toner
containing alcohol – wish it was a G and T and I could drink
the bloody thing instead! (Laughter) Apply serum carefully
and wait till that sinks in. And wait, and wait. Increase the paraben load
by dabbing eye cream. Dab, don’t wipe- don’t want to damage
the delicate skin, do we? (Laughter) By this stage, I’m feeling like
the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill, but I can’t stop. Cover the rest of the body
in bronzing cream, and wait till that soaks in. And wait Put straightening gel in hair, section off, and apply searing heat
until styled into shape. Burn finger on tongs, ow! Almost do back in, lifting up make-up kit. Foundation power, concealer, blusher,
eye-shadow, eyeliner, eyelash curler, mascara, eyebrow liner, eyebrow color,
lip liner, lipstick, lip gloss. Put on Shapewear to suck
in “mummy gut” after two children. (Laughter) Pop on dress, perfectly pressed
by a dry-cleaner, using known carcinogens. Add liquid to nails, containing phthalates
which are linked to breast cancer. But wait! There’s more! Yesterday, visit the “House of Pain,” no, not the one with the whips
and the fishnets, the one with the hot wax which they drip
above my lip and below my eyebrows before large hairs
are torn out of my face, as I lie there and solemnly chant,
“Beauty is pain, beauty is pain.” Today I ask the question;
Why do we do this to ourselves, why? Why? Because it’s bullshit. (Laughter) (Cheering) (Applause) Today I’d like us to reassess the amount
of time we spend on our grooming, and the effect it has on our productivity. Imagine what we could achieve if we weren’t beholden
to society’s unreasonable expectations about how we should look? Imagine our increased levels
of productivity in the workplace, and in the home,
in our lives more broadly? And imagine how much happier
and healthier we would be by not adhering to society
and advertising’s unreasonable and unrealistic image
of how a woman should look. A survey by Marks and Spencer found women take an average
of 27 minutes to get ready for work. Over a year, that is ten
full working days. That’s an awful lot of productivity lost. A second survey expanded that;
they compared men and women, they looked at, not just grooming
for work but for personal life as well, and they extrapolated that
over a lifetime. Over our lives on average, women will take 3,276 hours in grooming. For men, it’s 1,092. (Laughter) That’s Homer Simpson being groomed;
“He’s grooming me!” That’s about a third. Do you know what we could do
over those 3,276 hours? We could complete a pre-MBA course
at Oxford Business School, become proficient at a musical instrument,
or learn another language. But for me, this is the killer statistic: The American Time Use survey looked
over four years at the effect of grooming time on earnings. And what they found was this: For women, excess
grooming time actually signals a negative worker attribute
rather than a positive worker attribute, and guess what? It decreases earnings. If a woman doubles her grooming time, her earnings are decreased,
on average, by 3.4 per cent. Why? Because it’s a non-market activity. You know the other big
non-market activity? Housework, which we already
do the bulk of. It’s an absurdity
that we get caught up in all of this. So, what can we do about it? This is the difficult thing:
how do we move forward from this? I’m not a wowser: I love the “Girl Power” movement, I love
getting dressed up from time to time. But that doesn’t mean
that we should stop asking questions. And the questions
I would like to ask are these: Why does society expect this of us? Will this make me happier and healthier,
and is there a better way of doing it? The reason why I chose this
as the topic to speak about today is because I’ve got
a seven-year-old daughter. Every time I get ready
for my TV appearances, she stands next to me in the bathroom
and she always asks the same question: “Mommy, why do women
wear make-up and men don’t?” And for months, I struggled
about how to answer her. I thought, I can’t say, “Because honey,
it makes me look better,” because that implies that women don’t like
the way they look naturally. I can’t say, “It makes me feel better,” because that points
to pathologically low self-esteem. What I do say to her is, “Darling,
I don’t like it, it’s not right. But it’s what society expects of women,
and I’m doing whatever I can in my very small way
to try to change that. Hopefully by the time
you’re a young woman, you won’t have to go through this.” I remember when I was a young woman
at my first job in journalism, at a metropolitan radio station,
I was breakfast news editor. I’d come in at 3:30 in the morning, no make-up, wet hair,
straight out of the shower. Sometimes I’d come in in my pajamas
because it was so early. I still got the job done, you know? The boss came in one day and he said, “Tracey, I need to talk to you
about your attitude.” I said, “Oh yeah? What’s this all about?” And he said, “You need
to tidy up your act. You’re not looking professional.” I was genuinely perplexed. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, you could at least
put on make-up once in a while!” I said, “How does that make me
more professional?” He said, “Look, it’s just what society
expects of the ladies.” Then he stormed out and slammed the door. He couldn’t explain it,
couldn’t articulate it; it makes no sense. I’ve been accused of a lot of things
over my time in television and radio. “Porking up” when I was a size 12, being “too long
in the tooth” when I was 37, and having “limited intellect”
because I’m a blonde. I know that women on television
and in the media more broadly are a microcosm of what is experienced
by women in society more broadly. But the message is the same: You are valued for how you look, not for what is in your heart
or in your head. Well I’d like to start
a movement to change that. Like any big movement,
it starts with small steps, and the first step
is to deconstruct the problem. I’m quite literal, I take things
quite literally, okay? So I’m going to physically
deconstruct the problem. I don’t like wearing
three inches of make-up. It makes me feel… (Cheers) (Applause) Thank you. (Laughter) Thank you, sounds
like I’ve struck a chord there, sounds like it drives you guys nuts too. It makes me feel like I’m wearing a mask,
like I can’t really be who I am. And yet every time I go out without
make-up, the comments are always the same. And I try to not wear make-up
when I’m not doing TV appearances or making speeches,
and these are comments from friends, they are well-meaning, they don’t mean it
in a belittling or insulting way, but they’re just comparing the way I look when I see them without make-up
with the way I am on television. And they always say things like, “You look
a bit pale, are you not feeling well?” (Laughter) “Are you a bit iron deficient?
Here, I’ll get you a steak!” (Laughter) “Oh, you look a bit washed out,
are you coming down with the flu?” God, that feels better. See how long that took? I literally do
have three inches of make-up on. Oh, thank God. Alright, what can I deconstruct
next? This is fun. (Laughter) This is like pulling a Barbie doll apart. (Laughter) Now the hair is more difficult, because this is what
my hair looks like usually. (Laughter) An electrocuted Poodle, or “a blonde Afro”
as it was known at university. Now any woman knows
that getting caught in the rain is the best way of getting frizzy hair, so let’s hope this works
and doesn’t short-out the microphone, (Laughter) or in some way electrocute myself because then the cameramen down there
and the news journalists will have a really great story. (Laughter) (Sigh) That’s better! Alright! That should undoubtedly
take effect in a few minutes, I’m telling you. Alright, I love this dress. (Laughter) See how emotional we are
when it comes to clothing? I fricking love this dress! But we shouldn’t love pieces of fabric,
we should be loving people. This dress becomes constricting
after a couple of hours. I can’t think properly,
I feel like I can’t breathe, so it’s coming off. (Cheers) (Applause) Now I know what it feels like
to be a stripper. This is awesome! (Laughter) That’s okay. (Cheers) (Applause) Now we get to high heels. I could do a whole speech
on high heels, frankly. We all know they’re the tools
of the patriarchy, but we get caught up in how they make
our legs look longer and more shapely. But they are bloody uncomfortable. We also get caught up in the narrative
that we are expressing our individuality, our economic power,
and our strength through them. Well that’s bullshit too. Remember “Sex and The City”? That’s gone, there we go. I grew up in Queensland so I’m extremely
comfortable in thongs or bare feet. (Applause) So this is me. The real Tracey Spicer without my armor. Because that’s what it is. There’s a reason why a woman’s bouffant
is called her “helmet of hair.” We do this to physically
protect ourselves. I have a friend who was diagnosed
with breast cancer recently, and she had chemotherapy. Believe it or not, she said
the worst thing was her hair falling out, that she always felt like a lion
with this mane of hair, and that she felt like
the biblical Samson without that power. It’s sad, isn’t it? Quite obviously, I couldn’t go
to work looking like this. (Laughter) Most of us couldn’t. I love the idea of binning our bras
and not shaving out legs. I did that when I was at university,
it was marvelously liberating. But I think with this fourth wave
of feminism, we need a new way. So I’ve devised three easy steps. (Laughter) If they’ll come up. One easy step is I should learn
my technology better. Step one: Take note
of the number of minutes your personal grooming takes over a day,
week, month, year, and lifetime. You’ll be shocked by how much time
we spend on this stuff. Step two: Think about
the other things you could be doing; writing a book, meditating,
learning how to surf, learning how to sing,
doing a masters, doing a PhD. Whatever it is, think about
what you wanted to do as a kid. We only have one life, we don’t know
when it’s going to end. You might as well think about things
you wanted to do as a kid, and think, “Right, I can do that now!” Step three: Decide
what you can reduce or live without. This is the difficult thing
and it’s different for every woman, and I don’t want
to be prescriptive about it. As an example for me:
it’ll be simplifying my hair-do – 45 minutes a day
on one’s hair is ridiculous – minimizing the make-up on television
and continuing to not wear it off-camera, stopping painting my nails and, I mean, who said that women’s nails need
to be shiny and colorful and men’s don’t? It is an absurdity! And getting rid of the fake tan. I mean it is expensive,
and it is full of nasty chemicals. Like any change, this will take
some time to remove society’s layers of expectations
about how a woman should look. And there will be backlash,
there always is. But I hope that everyone here
in this room goes home today and at least has a think
about this time spent and it’s effect on productivity, and reassesses
that mathematical equation. Because if we do this, I assure you,
we will be happier, we will be healthier, and we will be more productive. My name is Tracey Spicer
and I’m no longer a vain fool. (Applause) (Cheers)

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